As they were building the pond I saw piles of boulders, big trucks rolling through my yard and this huge, huge hole. I’m thinking this is crazy and it’s going to be a waste of money.
Frozen Fish: A Koi Pond Design Glitch
When Andy and Carolyn bought their Vienna Virginia home it came with a koi pond that, as they found out, wasn’t so well designed. Every winter the pond would freeze and the fish would die because the pond was too shallow. It wasn’t much to look at either. Two murky bath tubs connected by a piece of PVC pipe, that’s how Andy described it. Even so, he liked it: “I always found it peaceful and I liked the fish”.
After a few years, Andy persuaded wife Carolyn to invest in improving the pond environment. They asked Surrounds Landscape Architects to redesign the pond and add a waterfall. Now the koi pond is vast (16,000 gallons) and the centerpiece of the landscape design. It’s the main attraction–especially for the kids. Carolyn says, “The kids all want to do their play dates here and want to be outside the whole time. Even in winter. In spring and fall when fish need to be fed we’ll hold off on feeding if the kids are having friends over so that they can do it.“
A Kind of Magic
“Peaceful.” “Relaxing.” “A private retreat. ” This is how some of our clients describe their koi pond experiences. The murmur of a waterfall, the stillness of the pond and the liquid movement of fish make a certain kind of magic for them.
Keeping a garden koi pond can be a great source of joy. At the same time, it is important to understand that a koi pond is different from a standard garden pond. A koi pond is specially designed and equipped to provide a sustainable habitat for the fish. It is a big investment and a big responsibility. Read The Bliss of Watching Fish if you are trying to decide whether or not to include a koi pond in your landscape design plan.
Koi Pond Art and Artifice
Ponds and waterfalls go together. That’s why, when we design a pond, we usually combine it with a waterfall. There are a couple of reasons for that. One, obviously, is aesthetics. The waterfall makes a beautiful focal point and contributes pleasing sound to the pond environment. The music made by falling and moving water is integral to all garden water features such as fountains, waterfalls and ponds.
Another reason is that a waterfall naturally provides circulation and some of the aeration that pond fish need. But this alone can’t keep water clean enough. For a koi pond, water clarity is essential to the health of the fish. An appropriately sized filtration system is required to clean debris from the pond water and control algae growth. Regular maintenance is needed to ensure proper Ph levels and water temperature.
Waterfall Design: Creating an Illusion
When siting a waterfall, your landscape architect will try to achieve the most dramatic elevation drop by simply following the natural slope of the landscape. He will also try to hide the starting point of the falls so the water appears to be coming from someplace out of sight. He may accomplish this by setting it in a corner of the property or hiding it behind trees. This sort of water feature is a contrivance, but if done well creates an artful illusion.
It’s just a great place to sit out on a rock have a cup of coffee, listen to the waterfall, watch the fish. It is a living, breathing thing. It’s constantly changing. I’m thrilled that we have it. –Andy
The youngest, Audrey, names all the new fish. Her favorite is Kohr Brothers–named after a frozen custard stand on the Jersey Shore that is known for its orange sherbet/vanilla ice cream swirl dessert. Kohr Brothers isn’t the only fish named after a dessert. There are Cider, Mint Chocolate Chip, Vanilla, Orange Juice, and Sugar. Other favorites are Zoomie, Black Beauty II and Spike.
I am a busy person but I have never used a back yard like this one. We are always out there—ten times more than we ever were before. –Carolyn
Koi Pond Maintenance
And now the fine print: It is important to understand that keeping a koi pond is not a “set and forget” endeavor. You can be as involved as you wish, but you have to be involved. Andy and Carolyn do a limited portion of the routine maintenance. Surrounds Garden Management and Blue Ribbon Koi maintain the filtration system and monitor fish health.
It’s good to know you’ve got someone who is keeping an eye on the pond. They keep track of water Ph and control of algae levels—the kinds of things you don’t have time or energy to take care of.
For years Andy and Carolyn had two maintenance companies: one to maintain the yard and another for pond maintenance. What sold them on the Surrounds Garden Management plan was that it integrated all aspects of landscape maintenance including the pond and water features. Because the same company that designed and built the pond is now maintaining it, there are never any issues about accountability. If there is an issue or concern of any kind, one phone call settles it.
Tom (Surrounds Garden Management) and his crew are quick to identify any pond issues and are out there fixing or adjusting immediately. We love Tom and his crew!
If you have a koi pond and feel it isn’t getting the attention it deserves, call to set up a meeting with one of our garden management specialists. If you’d like to design a koi pond and waterfall for your back yard, make an appointment to speak with one of our landscape architects.